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Acitretin (By mouth)

Acitretin (a-si-TRE-tin)

This medicine is a retinoid used to treat severe psoriasis.

Brand Name(s):


There may be other brand names for this medicine.

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used:

This medicine is not right for everyone. Do not take it if you had an allergic reaction to acitretin, etretinate, or similar medicines, such as isotretinoin. Do not take this medicine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have severe kidney or liver disease, or high cholesterol or triglyceride levels that cannot be controlled. Do not take this medicine if you are also taking methotrexate or an antibiotic. Do not take this medicine if you cannot follow all of the instructions in the Medication Guide.

How to Use This Medicine:


  • Take your medicine as directed.
  • It is best to take this medicine with food, at your main meal of the day.
  • This medicine should come with a Medication Guide. Ask your pharmacist for a copy if you do not have one.
  • Missed dose: Take a dose as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, wait until then and take a regular dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up for a missed dose.
  • Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

  • Some medicines and foods can affect how acitretin works. Tell your doctor if you are also taking any of the following:
    • Multivitamins or vitamin A supplements
    • Oral medicine for diabetes, such as glipizide, glyburide, metformin, rosiglitazone
    • Phenytoin
    • Retinoid medicine, such as isotretinoin
  • Do not drink alcohol while you are taking acitretin and for at least 2 months after your last dose. Tell your doctor if you currently drink alcohol.
  • If you are taking birth control pills, ask your doctor if your pills are the right kind to use. Be very careful with any other medicine or supplement you use. Some medicines, such as St John's wort or medicine for seizures, can prevent birth control pills from working.

Warnings While Using This Medicine:

  • For women: This medicine can cause very serious birth defects. You must use 2 forms of birth control for the entire time that you are taking acitretin, for 1 month before you start taking it, and for 3 years after you take your last dose. You will need to have 2 negative pregnancy tests to be sure that you are not pregnant before you start taking this medicine. You also might need to have pregnancy tests during treatment. If you think you have become pregnant while you are taking this medicine, tell your doctor right away.
  • This medicine may make you depressed or angry. Tell your doctor right away if you think this medicine is causing mental or emotional changes. Some signs are if you feel very sad or nervous, get upset easily, or think about hurting yourself or someone else.
  • Do not donate blood during the time you are being treated with this medicine and for at least 3 years after you take your last dose.
  • Your doctor will do lab tests at regular visits to check on the effects of this medicine. Keep all appointments.
  • Your psoriasis may get worse for a short time before it starts to improve. Acitretin works gradually. Your skin will probably start to look and feel better after you take this medicine for 8 weeks.
  • Tell your doctor if you are also receiving light therapy (phototherapy). This medicine may make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Wear sunscreen. Do not use sunlamps or tanning beds.
  • Keep all medicine out of the reach of children. Never share your medicine with anyone.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine:

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Chest pain, weakness, trouble breathing
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Increased hunger or thirst, increase in how much or how often you urinate
  • Muscle or joint pain or stiffness, numbness in your hands or feet
  • Severe headache, nausea, vomiting, and blurred vision
  • Sudden and severe stomach pain, fever
  • Trouble seeing (especially at night), eye pain
  • Yellowing of your skin or eyes, loss of appetite, stomach pain, dark urine or pale stools

If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:

  • Dry eyes or mouth, chapped lips, stuffy or runny nose
  • Mild skin dryness, peeling, scales, redness, or itching
  • Trouble wearing contact lenses

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088

Last Updated: 7/4/2014

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